Bitter Truth

Love them or hate them, hops are here to stay.

unknown-1_01.Nothing like a good beer-based debate to get people really revved up. In a recent article entitled “Against Hoppy Beer” in Slate, avowed hops-fan Adrienne So laid out a polarizing argument that overly hopped beers are scaring everyday beer drinkers away from the craft segment, by turning up the volume on the old humulus lupulus to 11. True, a lifelong Bud drinker is not very likely to switch to craft beer after one sip of Hoptimus Prime, Leafer Madness, or Hop Stoopid (yes: actual beer names). But hoppy beers are also more popular than ever—IPA is one of the best-selling beer styles in America. It’s something of a tempest in a beer glass, and the jury’s going to be out on this one for a long time.

To each his or her own, we say. If you love hops, go for it. International IPA Day is for you. Hops add some of the most fascinating angles to beer, from earthy to citrus and tropical flavors and aromas to all kinds of bitterness. Some styles we love have almost no hop character whatsoever. Some reach for, and achieve, “Hop Druid” status, and smell exactly like the hop’s groovy cousin in the Cannabaceae family. It’s a case of “Enough! Or Too much,” as William Blake wrote.

What do you think? Have American craft brewers gone overboard with hops? Tell us below. And read on for details on two new books that go deep into the green gold, with history and home brewers’ secrets.

IPA: Brewing Techniques, Recipes, and the Evolution of India Pale Ale
By Mitch Steele
Brewers Publications, $24.95

Who better to illuminate the country’s hottest beer style than Steele, brewmaster of Stone Brewing Co. in San Diego’s hop-infused North County. Deep historical background meets modern homebrew recipes, with interesting digressions in between.

For the Love of Hops: The Practical Guide to the Aroma, Bitterness, and the Culture of Hops
By Stan Hieronymous
Brewers Publications; $19.95

An invaluable resource for homebrewers and hopheads of all stripes, this book lays out the historical background, chemistry, and practical usage of some 100 hop varieties, with an entire chapter on the art of “dry hopping”.

Photo Credit: Christian DeBenedetti

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